fiber cement vs. metal siding
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Commercial Siding Material Face-Off: Fiber Cement Vs Metal

Commercial builders searching for the most durable exterior commercial siding material often end up torn between two major materials: metal cladding and fiber cement cladding. Both commercial cladding options are renowned for their longevity, toughness and resilience. But who would win in a face-off of fiber cement vs. metal siding?

Looking at the ease of installation, cost, durability, quality, maintenance and versatility of each item, fiber cement is the clear winner. 

Ease of Installation

Both metal and fiber cement panels are installed similarly using track systems that the panels clip into. But metal panels can be more labor-intensive, and usually require an installer who has significant expertise with the material.

All metals can dent and scratch because of how malleable they are, so it is strongly suggested to go with a metal-siding-specific contractor due to how dangerous sharp edges can be. And if a panel is scratched, it needs to be repaired immediately or it will rust.

Nichiha’s fiber cement architectural wall panels are incredibly easy to install once you get the hang of it. However, if your install team is using Nichiha for the first time, we’re happy to offer virtual or in-person pre-construction training for team members to ensure the project installs as smoothly as possible. 

Fiber cement panels are lightweight compared to most metal panels and easier to manage (though some single skin metals can be of a similar weight). Nichiha formulas have evolved immensely over the last few decades leading to far less brittle breakage. Nichiha provides step by step instructional videos for our wall panels utilizing clip fasteners, showcasing how seamless installation is.

Nichiha’s panels also feature a built-in rain-screen system to offer moisture protection, saving you from purchasing and installing a separate rain-screen system. 

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Metal has a great ROI, clocking in at around 86%. But, it has a wide range of costs from $5 to $35 per square foot. The cost is going to depend on the exact material (steel, zinc, copper, aluminum), the region, if there’s foam backing and how the material is coated. For aluminum and steel, it’s around $12.50 per square foot. Copper is approximately $35 per square foot.

When it comes to ROI, fiber cement siding is comparable coming in at 84%. It continues to be a premium option that is relatively affordable.

Fiber cement panels range between $9-$11 per square foot, making it an affordable option with serious advantages and the ability to aesthetically look like any other building material. 

However, the true costs of cladding material can’t be measured without examining maintenance and replacement costs over years of use. If the metal you choose falls on the lower range of price tags, you still need to think about future maintenance costs associated with fixing rust, painting or corrosion that comes with metal siding, factors that aren’t in play when it comes to fiber cement due to its durability.

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While metal cladding can deliver some modern style for your project and protect your average building’s design, you definitely need to think about your location. Depending on your commercial building’s requirements and local building and safety codes, you might want to consider a different material that can withstand severe weather and potential storm damage.

Metal works hard to protect exteriors, but it is prone to corrosion and rust over time. This potential damage is exacerbated if you are building in a wet, coastal climate. Some types of metal like zinc or copper are more weather resistant, but they are going to have a much higher price tag.

Nichiha’s fiber cement siding is one of the strongest on the market. It has endured Category 5 hurricanes and Nichiha’s products meet wind load requirements in many states in U.S. coastal areas, including strict codes in Miami-Dade. It is fire-resistant, which is a serious concern for building owners in areas where wildfires are on the rise.

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If you buy a strong metal material, it can be of high-quality. For example, higher-quality steel siding can last up to 50 years in a region with easy climates and moderate temperatures. But it can rust in the rain. Aluminum doesn’t rust, but it can corrode and become chalky. Copper and zinc, with higher price points, offer rust and corrosion resistance.

The ingredients alone of fiber-cement panels create a high-alkaline, high-quality material that is rot-resistant, fungus-resistant, pest-resistant and is created with a process that ensures it has almost no vulnerability towards moisture.

Fiber cement products offer some of the best warranties in the business as well. Nichiha offers comprehensive warranties for our products that can give you peace of mind when budgeting for your project.

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The maintenance of metal exterior cladding is a bonus for the busy commercial building owner. It won’t require much upkeep as long as it comes with a protective finish. However, some metal is softer than other types and will need repair or replacement if there are any dents or scratches after severe weather hits. 

On the other hand, no matter where you live, fiber cement siding has the ability to stand up to even the worst weather conditions. It won’t easily crack, buckle, fade or rot, so you can avoid product failures and costly maintenance.

With fiber cement, there is no repainting needed for up to 15 years and a light wash with soap and water annually will keep the exterior looking brand new — you don’t even need a pressure washer! Talk about low maintenance.

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With metal with factory-finish paints, some wholesalers have a fairly wide range of colors available, with custom coloring as an option, but painted metal can be very expensive. This leaves you with low design versatility outside of using different metals like zinc, copper, steel or aluminum.

Fiber cement siding offers design flexibility by offering multiple formats, profiles, textures, colors, sheens and cost structures. There is a design of fiber cement for your project no matter the aesthetic you have in mind. You can get fiber cement panels that look like brick, stone, vinyl, brick, concrete and even metal, all for budget-friendly prices.

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Fiber Cement Is King

While metal siding is an attractive alternative, it is still no match for the beauty, quality, versatility, durability and ease of fiber cement siding. As a cost-conscious alternative to metal cladding, Nichiha’s Miraia delivers a reflective, high-gloss finish backed by the quality and durability of fiber cement.

If you want to learn more about how Nichiha will help enhance your next commercial project, click here. Or talk to your local rep by clicking here.

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